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Rep. Peter King, the IRA, and the Hearings on Radical Islam in the United States

We all have heard the saying that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” It has a certain truth to it, and is proved over and over when partisans of the use of terror proclaim themselves as being forced to use horrendous tactics because of the overwhelming power and armed forces of those who oppress them.

The saying is brought to mind by the dredging up today of Rep. Peter King’s pro-IRA past by those opposed to his scheduled hearings on the impact of radical Islam on the American Muslim community. Clearly, the motive for these new stories, such as that in today’s New York Times, is opposition to the hearings, which the NYT editors regard as an example of Islamophobia. And the conservative community is right to defend the hearings, and to explain their necessity. PJM’s argument can be found here; the editors at National Review point out and explain why the hearings are long overdue; and Rick Moran at David Horowitz’s Frontpagemag.com details how the American Left is going overboard in trying to create opposition before the hearings even take place.

But despite the obvious motivation of those who seek to derail the hearings and to minimize whatever effect they might have on the public, the bitter truth is that the IRA in its prime was a terrorist organization, whose leaders had extensive ties to both the Western Left in both the United States and Britain, as well as to the Soviet Union and its satellite countries, as well as to the PLO in its terrorist heyday.

As this BBC report revealed, after 9/11, “While all American eyes are currently fixed on Muslim extremists, politicians in Northern Ireland have urged President Bush to extend the clampdown to those who raise funds for Irish paramilitary groups.” The IRA, the story continued, got most of its funding from two major sources: Libya and gullible Irish citizens of the United States who contributed to groups like NORAID and the Irish Freedom Committee. Like radical Muslim front groups today, they claimed to be raising money to support the peaceful struggle for civil rights in Northern Ireland, or to support the families of Irish political prisoners held in British prisons.  The reality was that the money raised was used to purchase guns and ammunition for IRA fighters, as everyone understood at the time.

At the time, defenders like the IFC’s John McDonagh argued that the IRA gave warnings before it bombed any sites, making it therefore different from the radical Islamists who did not.  Yet many of the bombings killed scores of innocent Irish civilians, and hundreds were killed and thousands injured in over 30 years of IRA terror attacks in Northern Ireland. And IRA men were arrested in Colombia, where they were training Marxist FARC guerrillas.

In 2002, the American radical Tom Hayden wrote in The Nation about the reasons why the Left should support Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA. “The recent victories for the left-wing Sinn Fein,” he wrote, “are a challenge to globalization and sharply contrast with the right-wing populism recently surfacing in other European elections.” Victory for them, Hayden wrote, “would be a defeat for U.S. officials who hope that a pro-business Irish Republic would become ‘America’s gateway’ into Europe.” Hayden understood that the IRA's political organization was opposed to business and the multinational corporations, and advocated “progressive populist politics.”  He was pleased that one candidate who won the election in North Kerry had “spent ten years in prison for IRA gunrunning on a trawler out of Boston.”